Some of us will remember that when we commemorated the dearly departed souls in the month of November, we referred to them as the ‘poor souls’. Maybe the reason we thought of them as ‘poor’ was because they had not yet made it into the pearly gates and welcomed into heaven. Too bad! That was at a time when we thought more about those who had died and were still awaiting their call into paradise.
I would rather think of them as the ’hopeful souls in purgatory’ because their faith had told them that one day those gates would be opened to them and they would be welcomed with great joy into paradise where they would spend eternity. How wonderful!
In more recent times we don’t give such emphasis to the souls in purgatory. I wonder why? On November 2nd, the day following All Saints Day which we celebrated last Sunday, I wonder how many of us commemorated the souls in purgatory. I think one of the reasons is because we don’t think that much about those who have died, gone before us and are not a part of our lives in the same way as they once were. Times change!
I’d like to share with you a little story, a true one, by the way, having to do with a daily practice that my grandmother, who died back in the 1940’s and she was in her eighties. It was about an hour every afternoon when she stopped her daily housekeeping, and sat down for her prayer hour. It consisted of praying the rosary, very quietly but with her lips moving as she said every ‘Hail Mary’ and all the other prayers. Then she turned to her prayer book, a little black book that by that time was held together with rubber band to keep all the prayer cards she had received and saved from relatives and friends who had died, you know, the memorial cards we receive when we attend a wake for someone.
Yes, they were all saved, and not for a short time, some of the ones she had were from many years earlier. She looked at every one of them, read over the name of the one it was for, then read the prayer printed on the back. And she had many of these cards but each one got a daily remembrance in her prayer hour.
How do I know this? Well whenever we were visiting my grandparents when I was a child there was a time every afternoon, about three o’clock when my grandmother quietly and gently, as was her manner, ushered us out of the parlor. Do you remember when many old homes had a room called the parlor, not the living room or den, but the parlor. That was her special place to be alone for her prayer time. Well, often I would sort of hide in the living room or dining room and watch her as she prayed. I didn’t stay the whole hour but would peek now and then and wonder when she would finish.
After she died in the summer of 1948, I asked my mother and my aunt if I could look at her prayer book. Almost reluctantly they said ‘yes’ but be careful with it and when you are finished give it back to one of us. It is something we want to keep. Sometime after that when we were back home I saw my mother sitting in the living room one evening and she was saying the rosary and going through that same prayer book.
That’s another way of remembering the souls of the faithful departed; by being faithful in our remembrance of them. If we loved them in this life, don’t forget to keep on loving them. One of the best ways is through prayer.
November has long been called the month to pray for our dearly departed.